Benefits of the Wills Beneficiary Index (WBI)
Wills can be a wonderful source of information for family historians. The WBI, centred on Hampshire, contains the names of people that have been extracted by volunteers from many of the wills that are held in the HRO. Extracts have also been made from some of the wills held in the TNA as well as from private collections.The names recorded can include family and relations, friends, employees, executors and witnesses. In some cases a family tree can almost be constructed from the people named. The HRO wills all have the reference number that will enable anybody to either view the will in the record office or to purchase a copy for themselves.
A good example is the will of Henry FRIEND in HRO 1793 B10. He was a collar maker living in Hambledon and wrote his will on 12 September 1792. In the will he named his wife Ann and his children Ann, Lucy, William, Mary, Thomas, Martha, Fanny and Henry, all of whom were beneficiaries. Other details in the will confirm that his wife Ann was the sole executrix and that John GOLDSMITH, chandler, and Richard TRIBE, victualler, both from Hambledon were to be the trustees. The witnesses were William PINK, Wm. GOVER junior and Wm. GOVER senior.
Another interesting example from the same area is the will of James STARES in HRO 1798 A104. John was a yeoman living at Hoe Moor in Hambledon and wrote his will on 13 May 1796 with the probate being granted on 20 March 1798. No wife or children were mentioned which indicates that James was probably a bachelor, which may also explain why the beneficiaries were all his relatives. He named as beneficiaries his uncles Charles, John and James CLEVERLEY, Nicholas, William and Edward STARES and aunt Elizabeth PIPER. Another aunt who was named was Mary STARES but the beneficiary was her natural born son John STARES. The executors were Edward and John STARES whilst the witnesses were Edw. BROWN, John CATCHLOVE and Charles COLWELL.
A third example from my own collection is the will written by Francis BIGNELL on 25 September 1881 in nearby Meonstoke. He was also very specific in naming his relatives as the beneficiaries. His daughters were Georgiana the wife of James BEAZLEY alias BIZLEY, Elizabeth the wife of John HAMMOND, Sarah the wife of Thomas JOHNS and Lucy the wife of Thomas William SMITH. The executors were his son-in-law Thomas William SMITH and Benjamin Thomas HEWITT, a Gentleman from Bishops Waltham.
All of the details in the three examples shown above are those that are recorded in the WBI entries for Henry FRIEND, James STARES and Francis BIGNELL. Not all of the wills contain as much detail as these but even a little can often prove to be very helpful. The ultimate aim is to progressively put more information, including the WBI details, into the Members Area but this will take time. However, in the interim if you are interested in discovering if there are any details of interest to you in the index, then please contact the Research Centre.